Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Burma Impressions

Some final random notes relating to our time in Burma which we didn't cover anywhere else…

Thanakha:
The pale yellow face paint. I had seen pictures of Burmese women and children with painted circles before we left and had looked it up. A couple of sources had said it was a tradition that was dying out or just done for tourists. However everywhere we went we saw it as a normal activity. Thanakha is a paste from a tree that is rubbed on the face for a multitude of reasons as it is a sunscreen, it makes the skin feel cool, it helps heal acne etc and is supposed to have a lovely fragrance - but as Andrew mentioned at the time we didn't get close enough to anyone to sniff it.
Thanakha


Flights:
We had booked our flights through the travel agent and we received our paper tickets and all were on Air Bagan. Every flight however was changed from the itinerary. We would receive a call from the travel agent to say the flight had been cancelled, but we had been rebooked on another airline, but at the same time (give or take 10 minutes). Therefore it makes a lot of sense to book both your flights and hotels through a travel agent so they know where you are and can always contact you to advise changes.

Although we were booked on Air Bagan we flew Air KBZ , Asian Wings and Bagan airways. All the planes were tidy and the staff very nice. The amazing thing about these flights was the airline food was really good. I repeat – really good. Initially when I saw the boxes we immediately thought of the marginal food we get on Lao Airlines, but this was yummy. Chicken sandwiches on white bread, tasty little cakes....

airlines


Roads:
There are some mighty shiny new highways out there and not a lot of cars using them. The cars that exist are mainly old and run down, but there are a number of new vehicles. The cars are a mix of left and right hand drive and the government has recently loosened the regulations for bringing cars into Burma - but still allows either left or right - so no improvement in general road safety in the near future. This is one country where we have seen large numbers of rural people still commonly using ox & cart for work and transport.

ox carts


People:
Due to isolation the country has not been dramatically affected by tourists. The people we encountered we're amongst the friendliest anywhere. Tourist overcharging & widespread scams seem almost non-existent yet.

Generators:
Everywhere there are private generators on the streets as the electricity supply struggles to keep up with demand. Electricity is controlled and there are compulsory black out periods.


Betel Nut:
Chewing Betel nut and spitting the red residue out is a national obsession. Everywhere there are mobile sellers preparing the leaf parcels, and plenty of willing buyers. Andrew had a short demonstration from a seller at the Scott market, but didn’t try any. No need to have teeth that are further stained. It is somewhat frowned upon but the nation is addicted to the stimulant and sometimes further stimulants such as nicotine are added to the mix to make it even more addictive.


Betel



A good summary of the process can be found here Betel recipe or here Betelmania


Fragrant Temple Flowers:
Everywhere that people walked and cars stopped there were flower sellers with threaded fragrant flowers. These were hung on car mirrors and taken to temple, they were lovely.
flowers




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